National Geographic: March 2014, Part 1

Okay, so I can write up whole issues at a time, but I really cannot do justice to that many stories at once. So I guess I am going to go back to doing two or three articles at a time. If someday I am far enough ahead that I can paste several posts together into one entire issue, then I’ll do that. Either way, though, from now on, the most articles I will write up at one time will probably be three, no matter how they end up being posted.

Syria: The Chaos of War: Damascus: Will the Walls Fall? by Anne Barnard, photographs by Andea Bruce

That titles’s a mouthful. I’m not sure if Syria: The Chaos of War is going to be a series, or is just the title of this section of this issue, so I’m putting it in the title section here just in case.

The Syrian Civil War and/or Syrian Revolution, depending on whom you talk to, has been going on since 2011. This article is a look at what was the current state of the capital city, Damascus, in March 2014.

Damascus, the site of the conversion of the Apostle Paul, has always prided itself on being cosmopolitan. In the city, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have lived and worked in relative peace for centuries. That peace is now being threatened by the ongoing war. As this article went to press, no fighting was taking place within the city, but the military was stationed in the city and was shelling the suburbs. In words and pictures, we see the people of the Old City of Damascus living their lives as best they can in the middle of a war zone.

Syria: The Chaos of War: Journey Without End, photographs by Lynsey Addario, text by Carolyn Butler

Journey Without End is a pictorial of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. We see refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, and there is a map showing where in each country the refugees have settled.

Where the Greenstone Grows, by Kennedy Warne, photographs by Michael Melford

In Where the Greenstone Grows, Warne and Melford take us to Te Wahipounamu, part of the Te Wahipounamu-South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. We get a glimpse into the history and culture of the area, focusing on the nephrite jade, known in Maori as “pounamu,” that gives the area its name.  Warne talks about the type of nephrite jade known as inanga pounamu, which takes its name from whitebait fish that are a delicacy in New Zealand and also the connection of the World Heritage Area to Gondwana, the southern part of the land mass known as Pangaea.

I am saving up for a trip to New Zealand (our goal is to go in 2019), and Alex is something of a rock hound. I suspect we may be taking a trip to the beaches of Te Wahiponamu.

The 330-Week Money Challenge

You know that 52-week money challenge thing that goes around once in a while, particularly towards Christmas?  Well I use a similar approach to save up for bigger trips.  The 330 weeks I mention in the subject line is how long it will take me from my start just about a year ago to save up the money for a planned trip to China in 2021.  I started studying Mandarin in 2007 in hopes of one day taking a trip to China, but it never worked out, so I have tentatively scheduled this long-awaited trip for 2021. At the moment, I have two other trips planned that I am using a similar approach, one to Germany and one to New Zealand, between now and 2021.

And before you ask, I’m not ever going to put $330 aside in one week. The plan goes something like this.  For a trip to China, I figured that $10,000 should do it (and checking Expedia, it looks like I can do it much more cheaply than that, but you never know what will happen to prices over the next five years).  So I counted the weeks between the date I started and the end of December 2020 (since I want to book the trip around six months in advance, plus I made this calculation using San Antonio and Shanghai as my endpoints and I hope to do a bit more traveling around the country than that, which will raise the cost) and got 330 weeks.  Dividing $10,000 into 330 weeks gives me an average amount of just a little more than $30 per week, so my first week will be $1 and my final week should be $60 (though it won’t, as we will see).  Since 330 divided by 60 is 5.5, I will round down and start at $1 the first five weeks and go up $1 every five weeks after that.  This will mean that my final five weeks will be $66, rather than $60.  At the end of those 330 weeks, I will have a little more than $11,000.

And you know what?  If my trip to China doesn’t end up costing me $11,000, then I can use that money on another trip.  I want to return to Naples (I loved Naples — more on that later) to see the blood miracle of San Gennaro in the early 2020s as well, so that seems like it might be a good use of any extra money.

Additionally, in practice, it doesn’t always work out so perfectly, since sometimes money is a little tighter than others and I end up having to carry that week’s amount forward another week or two to tide me over.  But, in theory, I should have plenty of money to do whatever travel I want to do in China saved up in plenty of time for the trip I hope to make.

I am also doing a reverse version of this to save up for smaller trips.  I chose a dollar amount as a maximum and I am counting down in reverse from that amount, decreasing every two or three weeks, depending on my financial state that week.  This money added up quickly and if I suffer some kind of financial setback, the money is already there for me to use on a smaller weekend trip sometime in the future. The thought occurs that I should go to Mexico at some point, speaking of travel to countries where I speak the language. Mexico is, after all, right there. I went to Nuevo Laredo once in the 1990s, but have never been farther into the country than that.

1/28/2019 On or around November 28, 2018, I realized that I need to start monetizing this blog. To that end, I’m starting to put what I call Gratuitous Amazon Links into my posts. As of January 12, 2019, I’m going back to add GALs to my older posts. If I can’t find anything exactly on-topic to the post, I’m choosing from among the highest-rated items on the same topic as the post. For example, for a post on a park, I’ll search Amazon for books on parks and choose one of the ones with the highest reader ratings. Here is the GAL for this post:

Rock Retirement: A Simple Guide to Help You Take Control and be More Optimistic About the Future (Kindle Edition) by Roger Whitney (Author), Joe Saul-Sehy (Foreword)